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Publications

Friday, September 7th, 2018

Yesterday two very different publications emerged featuring Stan’s Cafe content which, taken together, show the diversity of how writing about theatre is currently distributed.

Marissia Fragkou has authored a book Ecologies of Precarity in Twenty First Century Theatre. It’s always exciting to find a book whose title causes you to reach for a dictionary, especially when that dictionary doesn’t help at all. It seems the term precarity (which presumably prevents you having to get ugly with precariousness), wasn’t massively in use 39 years ago when I started secondary school and my parents gave me the edition of The Little Oxford Dictionary which still sits beside me ameliorating my poor spelling. Marissia’s book is published by Bloomsbury Methuen and currently marketed at University Libraries (RRP £75 but at the time of writing available from the publishers for £52.50) hopefully the paperback will be out ready for people’s Christmas stockings next year. Marissia is a good incisive writer so this volume is certainly worth checking out by those interested in the contemporary theatre scene.

By contrast Tracey Crossley and Niki Woods have edited Making Post Dramatic Theatre: A Handbook of Devising Exercises a couple of which are ours. This publication is exclusively available on the subscription based online platform Digital Theatre. It is targeted at young theatre makers or teachers of theatre to give them ideas for their own practical work. Once again The Little Oxford Dictionary doesn’t help but it is excused as Hans-Thies Lehmann’s seminal Postdramatic Theatre (which cites Of All The People In All The World as piece of such theatre) was only published in 2006.

By way of further contrast Devising Theatre With Stan’s Cafe, written with our collaboration with Mark Crossley (no relation of Tracy as far as we know) remains a massive compromise. There’s no dictionary challenging title, it’s for theory AND practice people, it’s out in old school expensive hardback, new school cheaper paper back and future school e-book with a non-subscription website based supplement.

If you’ve not yet had enough contrasts there are the 21 new Stan’s Cafe titles we are looking to publish in the next 12 months, but they are the subject of a blog post that’s yet to be written.

When Kiln is not Kiln

Tuesday, September 4th, 2018


Photo Credit: Simon Davies

Some of you will know this story, you’re savvy enough to stop reading if you have.

In 2005 a group of students graduated from Birmingham University and decided to form a theatre company. After much fraught discussion they decided to call their company Kindle. I don’t know for a fact that the discussion was ‘much’ and ‘fraught’ but whoever named their enterprise with speedy decisive assurance? Anyway, the point is they called themselves Kindle, they worked hard, started making shows, and became successful.

In parallel with this story is one about a graduate of Princeton University who, in 1994, decided to form an online book retailer. After ‘much fraught discussion’ he decided to call his retailer Amazon. He worked hard, started selling books and became successful.

In 2005 Amazon started work building an electronic book called Fiona. After some time it became clear that the e-reader could be great but that its name was rubbish so after much engaging of branding consultants they decided to call it Kindle.

By the time millions of Kindles were being sold around the world Kindle started to get fed up of sharing their name with an e-reader and all the questions and misunderstandings that involved. They decided to change their name.

Despite very little engaging of branding consultants they still came up with the name Kiln, a neat choice I’m sure we will all agree.

In parallel with this story is one about a graduate of Hull University who in 2012 takes over Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn, London. After working hard, making shows and being successful, the director leads Tricycle Theatre to a major refurbishment. After ‘much fraught discussion’, but possibly not very much ‘web-searching for to see if a theatre company already exists with the name you’d quite like to use for your theatre company’, she/they decide to call it… and here you’re all ahead of me – Kiln.

So poor old Kiln were called Kindle before Kindle and now they’re called Kiln before a much richer, more established and more prominent theatre based in London decide to be Kiln. Where from here?

Well Kindles are still called Kindles. Kiln complained to Kiln about the name Kiln, but Kiln really didn’t seem bothered about it at all – whereas Kiln, as you can imagine, are really quite bothered about it. So Kiln aren’t going to change their name, particularly after an expensive rebranding, despite sniffy columns and comments in The Guardian which also include numerous people saying what a rubbish name Kiln is! This just leaves Kiln who have decided to disband, not because of the whole Kiln thing, but because as a collective they felt they’d run their course and want to continue working in theatre as individuals.

So if Kiln are disbanding does any of this matter? Well, The Tricycle didn’t know Kiln were disbanding when they decided to cohabit their name – maybe Kiln didn’t know they were disbanding at that point, so there is a lack of respect in the decision, which is upsetting, original Kiln are sinking in the search engines swamped by new Kiln.

On 22nd September Kiln are holding a valedictory walk from Birmingham University to a pub somewhere across some hills, I hope to join them and celebrate their achievements and wish them luck with whatever they do next – whatever they may call themselves.

Matters Outstanding

Monday, July 30th, 2018

This weekend saw the return of Lunar Festival after a year off. Having worked the 2015 as The Commentators it was a pleasure to return not working but as the punters. Although cloud cover prevented us from seeing Friday night’s Blood Moon phenomena in the sky the Lunar stages presented plenty of alternative phenomena to gape at in awe.

Amadou and Mariam were a stirring joyful feelgood revelation to get lost in. They were set up by Basement Jaxx who got and kept a whole field of people jumping with their DJ set. In turn they were set up by zestful fun from The Go! Team

Saturday’s more overcast weather was adroitly mirrored by a darker musical programme that opened with Matters, my pick of the festival. Although I absolutely loved Amadou and Mariam ultimately they are a bit too cheerful and exotic to be my pin-ups, driving epic paranoia from Birmingham has to carry the day for me.

I looked after bags while lots of people went to hear Ed Miliband do whatever he does now. We caught Untied Artists blowing cobwebs from their Acorn Emporium children’s show before it arrives at mac in August. Barbara Nice was audible in the distance running a version of Blind Date. I caught what looked like a dad and two very young sons played a punk set and Ouse Valley Singles club playing a pugnacious skiffle set. We ate Persian food, didn’t feel the need for any of the ‘healing’ or craft activities on offer, slept past the 8am kids cinema showing on offer by Flatpack and sheltered from the rain. Blackash concluded their intense set with cheerleaders and a gorgeously back lit Goldfrapp wrapped Saturday-up with an rich and assured performance.

A triumphal return for Lunar, next up, in early September comes the Moseley Folk Festival for which The Commentators return.

BE judged

Monday, July 2nd, 2018

REVOLT ATHENS by Elli Papakonstantinou/ ODC Ensemble from Elli Papakonstantinou/ODC on Vimeo.

BE Festival starts tomorrow (Tuesday), so that makes it a year since I was on the judging panel. I don’t really agree with art prizes (perhaps because I’ve never won one) so it was a bit hypocritical to agree to be a judge on an art prize panel, but I’m emotionally beholden to BE and find it difficult to refuse them anything.

In the end I had a great week. It was lovely to have an excuse to clear my diary see all the productions at BE – the first time I’ve done this. Being a judge meant complimentary food in the fabulous ‘on stage’ BE restaurant and the biggest treat was meeting the other judges and arguing and agreeing with them.
Naturally there were shows other judges loved for being profound, moving or clever that left me cold or disinterested. There was a show I loved but others felt lacking in some way and no argument I could make would persuade them otherwise. There was the show I expected to not like that I loved and acted as cheerleader for. There were shows we felt too slick, others too knowing.
Each day we met before the first performance to reflect on the previous day’s shows. A chance to tune into each others aesthetic, to gauge the field, to clarify our own thought by hearing the thoughts of others. Continue reading “BE judged” »

Kenesh Dramaturge

Friday, June 1st, 2018

Last Thursday I was holed up in the Stan’s Cafe kitchen with Keisha Grant, Artistic Director of Keneish Dance, looking at a video documenting an early draft of their new show Hi I’m…. For this piece Keisha is interested in including some narrative elements and thought it may be helpful to talk about this with someone who devises theatre shows. Continue reading “Kenesh Dramaturge” »

Book Royalties

Friday, April 20th, 2018

The publishers Bloomsbury have a series of tabs at the top of their website to steer visitors towards the category of book they are searching for: Fiction, Non-fiction, Academic, Children’s and Harry Potter. What an unbelievable cash cow that young wizard must be for everyone involved!

We’ve just received the first royalty cheque from our very own cash gerbil Devising Theatre With Stan’s Cafe. It may not have been a big cheque, but it was a good feeling to know the book is out there being bought and (hopefully) read.

Given that we are currently being undercut by our own publishers and assuming that for such books sales tail off rather than snowball, we have perhaps had the best of things financially; nevertheless we will continue to reap practical benefits as those eager students who regularly email us asking ‘how do you get your ideas?’ or ‘how do you devise your shows?’ can now be pointed to the book rather than having to be written more bespoke answers and pointed towards our magical Harry Potter Helpful Things tab.

Translanguaging

Sunday, January 28th, 2018

On Friday I learned that Translanguaging is a term for communication that involves slipping between languages both verbal and visual. On Friday in an outhouse of Aston Hall I joined artists from a range of disciplines to learn about a research project investigating Translanguaging conducted by academics from a number of British Universities. Each academic had just 15 minutes to share with us a sample of their research. We watched a video of a butcher at Birmingham indoor market engaging with a customer who wants to buy some pork belly. We studied a short transcript of a consultation in which a Polish(?) speaker is helped through an application for disability benefit. We listened to an audio recording of a football coach run through a warm up routine with some young children and another recording of someone explaining their plans to start up a Polish Cafe in Leeds(?). Finally we conducted a textural analysis of a text message conversation that switches between Chinese and English. Continue reading “Translanguaging” »

Resolute

Saturday, December 30th, 2017

Andrei Tarkovsky’s final film The Sacrifice opens with its main character planting a thin barren tree, he is helped by a small mute child to whom he tells a story of a monk who does the same thing and asks his novice to water the tree every day until it comes to life. After three years of daily watering with no apparent reward, suddenly the novice discovers the tree covered in blossom. Alexander goes on to propose that doing the same thing at the same time every day, no matter what that action is, must change the world in some way. The small mute child is seen through the course of the film lugging a bucket of water to their tree.

This discipline of doing something every day of the year has been much on my mind lately. I’m a big fan of resolutions – New Year and other kinds. I don’t hold to the cynical defeatist stance that resolutions are always broken so making them is pointless. It’s not true all resolutions are broken and those that are must remain held for some time and are worth the resolve for the time that they are led. I believe in redemption and new starts.

Last year my resolutions were to run more and read more, both were achieved but neither was an ‘every day’ resolution.

The Godfather of ‘doing something every day’ is Tehching Hsieh, whose legendary One Year Performances I find inspirational for life, work and the combination of the two.

This year I am not competing with Tehching Hsieh but choosing three very small ‘every day’ resolutions. Last year’s resolutions are now life-style habits so they no longer count as resolutions. A more ad hoc resolution will be to re-watch all seven canonical Andrei Tarkovsky films – anyone who wants to join me in this is very welcome it will change the world in some way.

Training

Tuesday, November 7th, 2017

In recent weeks we have been back working with our friends at Theater Bonn. You may have seen in the news that Bonn is hosting a big United Nations Climate Change conference. More correctly they are co-hosting it with Fiji whose infrastructure wasn’t well suited to accommodating the thousands of delegates and attendant media, activists Etc. Anyway, there is a big Climate Change conference in Bonn, we were asked if we had an idea to contribute, we did, they liked it, we made it, it’s called What When and it’s currently sat in a park that forms the campus for the conference. Continue reading “Training” »

Stupid and disappointed

Friday, June 30th, 2017

First it is important you know that I was very tired. It was late at night and I’d just got back from a weekend trip to Germany with Of All The People In All The World when, scrolling though the BBC’s online Glastonbury coverage, an image of Nadia Rose intrigued us enough to eventually persuade our tablet to play her set. Continue reading “Stupid and disappointed” »


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